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Should’ve written before now.

The thing about looking in the mirror after a bath or shower, is that I can see the smears of black and grey below my eyes, where my mascara and/or eyeliner has melted; the worse thing, is that I’m pretty sure I actually look better with smudged, clownish, day-old make-up gathering in the tiny creases there, than with no make-up at all.

Do I look so old, at 34, that even the half-destroyed remnants of yesterday’s cosmetics look better than my clean, freshly washed face? Where did all these lines–mostly fine, but some not–even *come* from?

When did my high cheekbones and readily-flushed face start to look fat and maybe as if I have a drinking problem, rather than sculpted and youthful? Have I looked like this all along? In fact:

Was I *ever* pretty? I gave up on being beautiful a long time ago–or I thought I had–but now, I doubt that I was ever even genuinely pretty, the way everyone is, before a certain age.

I think these silly, useless, vain thoughts, and I add more wrinkles (I can feel the skin creasing) between my brows, and I laugh, just a little, at myself. I will be 35 soon, and my ex-husband is 39 sooner, and my children are 10 and 12, and my parents are well into (if not past?) middle-age, and one of the four is dead already. My natural grandparents, save one, all died years ago.

This is life, I think to myself. “The slow, inexorable march… to the grave,” as someone cheerily wrote before me (no, wretched brain, I see you evidently will *not* deign to recall where you heard it, nor from whom). No matter. That is what all this is–only a passage from birth to death, and why should I care if my crows’ feet are worse than my mother’s were, at my age?

(Not fair, not fair, she’s smoked 2-4 packs of cigarettes every day of her life since before I was born, I’ve never smoked beyond taking a drag off a friend’s cigarette now and again in my teens and early 20s to confound people who KNOW how anti-smoking I am, why should my skin be mottled with acne scars and rosacea and surgical cuts from boils that had to be excised in a doctor’s office, why should I have lip lines at all, why should a single glass of wine–taken no more than 5 or 6 occasions per year, and most years, less often than that–flush my face beetroot, and stain my teeth, which used to be so lovely and white and are now just pale beige, despite my still brushing them 2-3 times each day… )

Shush, now, I tell myself, trying for the firm, yet somehow still gentle, endlessly soothing tone you would use with a small, slightly hysterical but generally good-natured child, that you love with all your heart. Shhh. It will be alright. You are far from home and you are older every day, but you love, have loved, will continue to love, and you are loved in return. Can you doubt it? 

And even I cannot.

Shhh, there now. It will be alright.